Fibre optics are the future of data transfer. The problem is that when that light signal reaches a machine, it must be converted into an electrical signal copper-veined devices can handle, resulting in speed bottlenecks. But Japanese engineers at NTT think their groundbreaking optical RAM will allow for an internet backbone comprised entirely of light-based components.
According to PhysOrg and Nature Photonics, the optical RAM cells have memory gates that take 1s and 0s of binary code creates pulses of light by blocking or allowing light to pass.
To make the memory cell, the team buried a very tiny strip of indium gallium arsenide phosphide in a small piece of indium phosphide. The outer portion was then etched with holes small enough to control the flow of laser light of a certain frequency. They left a path running though the middle of the material un-etched to provide a means for light from a laser to move in and out of the cell.
When laser light is shone on the material, it follows the path through the memory cell and the refraction index is changed causing a pulse of light to either pass through on not, representing either a 1 or O state. Another pulse changes it to another state and so on. To help the memory material maintain its state, a second laser provides a constant stream of background light.
At 30 nanowatts, this optical RAM also consumes five times less power than a flash drive, and Nature says that it has the potential to scale on a large level. And having this in a huge data centre somewhere will be cool, but I’ll hold out hope that it’ll make it into our computers someday. [Nature Photonics via PhysOrg]